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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article17 August 20232 min read

Steps for a successful car-free day

Our urban environment has been carved out to make space for cars. This has led to a collective dependency on motorised vehicles. Yet, they are the main source of transport-related energy consumption as well as congestion, air and noise pollution and lack of safety.

Across Europe, cities and regions are taking concerted actions to reduce car usage.

Car-free days are valuable tools for trialling and spreading awareness of the capacity for and need to reprioritise transport in city centres, and reallocate space towards active travel and public transport.

In Tartu (Estonia), one of the city’s main streets has trialled a car-free month, with 8,000 m2 of space for yoga, concerts, festivals, a carousel and a swimming pool. Meanwhile in the French capital, development of ‘Paris breathes’ areas in many neighbourhoods, with space closed to cars on Sundays and holidays, has proved incredibly popular.

As part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, on 22 September, thousands of cities in Europe, and beyond, close their streets to motorised traffic and open them for people.

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is the European Commission’s flagship awareness-raising campaign on sustainable urban mobility. It promotes behavioural change in favour of active mobility, public transport, and other clean, intelligent transport solutions.

The main event takes place from 16-22 September each year, culminating in the popular Car-Free Day. Local authorities are encouraged to use the main week to try out innovative planning measures, promote new infrastructure and technologies, measure air quality, and get feedback from the public.

To support cities and regions in developing and implementing a successful car-free day, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK published guidance for practitioners.

Within this guidance actions include:

  1. Choose the whole city or one specific area - If more than one area is defined, pedestrian paths can link them. Consider the type of area (residential, work, shopping), accessibility, and surrounding parking, etc. Provide clear information to regular car drivers.
  2. Set a time - Choosing a weekday will maximise the reduction of emissions, noise and fuel consumption, while showing people there are other options available for their daily trips. One hour before to one hour after normal working hours is best! Car-Free weekends or Sundays once a month is also a good idea.
  3. Involve local organisations - The more organisations involved the better: cyclists’ groups; schools; companies; residents’ associations; youth councils; public transport operators, etc. Pay special attention to shopkeepers from the very beginning.
  4. Think about parking - Some commuters will need a parking spot to leave their car. The parking area must be connected via public transport, shared bicycles/scooters, walking and cycling infrastructure, etc. It is also worth running special shuttle services. Residents need to clear the streets the day before.

Measuring the impact of the car-free day is also critical, and collecting figures on fuel consumption, emissions, health impact for both children and adults, noise levels, traffic, and cost will help demonstrate the positive benefits.

You can find out more information and resources on developing car-free days on the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK website, here.




Publication date
17 August 2023
  • Mobility management
  • Walking and cycling
  • Europe-wide